METRO officials met yesterday with City Council members and neighborhood residents at the Greater East End Management District to discuss the fate of the Sterling Laundry & Cleaning Company at 4819 Harrisburg. In less than a week from the initial meeting, METRO assembled a presentation outlining their investigation and findings for salvage opportunities.
Unfortunately, the building is located across from a city park and current laws prevent the transit authority from taking park land for the new light rail line. This puts the new right-of-way line just behind the current facade location and in order to save any part of the building the facade must be moved.
Originally, the options of moving the facade back on the property and reattaching it to the severed building or possibly relocating the facade to new private development on the rail line were discussed. However, these options were dismissed in favor of moving the facade across the street to a city owned park so that the asset is controlled by the community and not private developers.
METRO quickly launched an investigation into the original construction methods and materials in order to determine the feasibility of disassembly, relocation, and reconstruction.
The news was positive when METRO discovered the facade is an assembly of steel members covered with lath and plaster. This allows for easier deconstruction, whereas a solid masonry or concrete structure would be more costly and time consuming to disassemble.
Also, to everyone's surprise, METRO offered to improve the soon to be vacant land at 4819 Harrisburg during construction. The proposal included building a temporary pocket part with a full size replica of the building facade. While neighbors were excited at the proposition, some were more interested in seeing project money spent on permanent assets for the community, rather than a temporary installation.
METRO then went on to illustrate various options for the reuse of the building facade within Eastwood Park. Option 1 was to attach the facade to the existing community center, but with plans to build a new community center and parking lot in the near future, the facade would have to be stored for a longer time.
Option 2 was the most favorable as it serves a gate to the park, keeps the facade facing the street, and allows for the possibility of adding mural walls to the rear for local artists to contribute to the piece.
While the existing sign for Eastwood Park is strictly utilitarian (seen in Option 2), Option 3 provides the least expensive alternative of replacing the sign with the repurposed facade.
Option 4 would modify the standard METRO bus shelter to accept the facade. Since the current bus routes on the street will be replaced by the new light rail line, the facade would no longer face Harrisburg and would have to be relocated to a nearby intersection.
METRO is committed to the disassembly and transportation of the facade to a new location. The City and community would be responsible for the management and costs associated with the temporary storage and permanent home. However, METRO is looking into its flexibility to provide additional funding for the reconstruction of the facade on the new light rail line right-of-way.
More information at:
Original blog post, Light Rail's Destruction
Houston Chronicle editorial, Facade Value: Saving the Skin isn’t the Same as Saving the Building. But at least it’s Something.
KHOU Channel 11 News, Neighbors Say Metro Promised to Save a Building it Now Plans to Demolish
Swamplot's Art Deco Slaughter on Harrisburg: Is METRO Taking to the Cleaners? and Saving Time on the East End Line: Sterling Laundry and Long-Term Storage
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